CHICAGO -- The most common type of obesity surgery may increase patients' chances for alcohol abuse, according to the largest study to demonstrate a potential link.

Patients who had gastric bypass surgery faced double the risk for excessive drinking, compared with those who had a less drastic weight-loss operation. The surgery shrinks the stomach's size and attaches it to a lower portion of the intestine. That limits food intake and the body's ability to absorb calories.

Researchers believe it also changes how the body digests and metabolizes alcohol; some who've had the surgery say they feel alcohol's effects much more quickly, after drinking less, than before.

Nearly 2,000 women and men who had various kinds of obesity surgery at 10 centers nationwide were asked about their drinking habits a year before their operations, versus one and two years later.

More than two-thirds had gastric bypass surgery, and they were most at risk. Two years after the surgery, a little more than 10 percent, or 103 of 996 bypass patients, had drinking problems, a 50 percent increase from before surgery.

By contrast, about 5 percent of patients who had stomach-banding obesity surgery drank excessively two years later, similar to the pre-surgery numbers.

The study was released online yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. -- AP

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